Who doesn’t love spring cleaning? Spring cleaning may be a cliché but it is born of truth and necessity. Spring is inspired with possibility, motivation, and a desire to shake off the doldrums of winter. While in the past lawyers may have been burdened with paper, today lawyers may also be burdened with electronic case notes, photos, audio notes, as well as other types of media, documents, and paper. Staying organized, and avoiding being scattered, may seem more difficult than ever–but not impossible.
Getting Organized and Improving Efficiency
Many lawyers today who are focused on running a tech-savvy and efficient law firm may be using a variety of services to accomplish organization and efficient use of case materials. Rather than creating efficiency, lawyers may sometimes find that using multiple cloud services to achieve organized document and case management systems may threaten efficiency. Solo, newer, and other forward-thinking lawyers may, for instance, be using Basecamp for case management; Evernote for notes, checklists, and photos; and Google Drive for document management. While these programs are great virtual document and case management tools, sometimes different pieces of a case can be seemingly in disarray across multiple services and locations.
All of these services (Basecamp, Evernote, and Google Drive) are cloud based. One solution, cloudHQ, allows all of these services to be synced in an organized and efficient fashion. As the service providers note, “cloudHQ provides lawyers with a completely organized system to keep files from multiple cloud services organized and stored in unique folders and locations.” For example, if the lawyer wants files from Basecamp to be stored on Dropbox, cloudHQ achieves that. In addition, notes from Evernote can be stored with documents in Google Drive. Files from all cloud services can also be synced to a single location. Files added to each cloud service that the lawyer uses can be automatically synced with files on other cloud services so that files are automatically stored in specific file folders in an organized fashion. Mobile devices can also be automatically synced with online accounts. The best part is that cloudHQ offers a 15-day free trial with an unheard of no-credit-card-required policy!
Reducing Paper and Tidying Up
Some lawyers may be looking to transition toward a paperless system but have a backlog of paper or struggle with how to efficiently handle and organize incoming paper. Services like Evernote allow lawyers to create less paper to begin with, and other services help lawyers manage virtual files.
For lawyers looking to transition to less paper, protocols for handling both electronic documents and paper documents will increase efficiency. An important first step to transitioning to a more lightweight, virtual, paperless practice is scanning all incoming documents into PDF documents. Especially for those reluctant to give up paper (I cannot shake the comfort of having something in-hand), it is important to set a timeline such as thirty days or six months, for example, after which time documents converted into electronic form are shredded. It is important to establish a time-frame before documents are discarded to ensure documents which may be needed later are actually converted to an electronic format.
Secondly, it is important to devise a standardized file name format. Some document management software and cloud-based document management services offer standardized file naming built in. This is something that the lawyer can then replicate. When reducing the amount of paper weighing you down, remember to keep in mind that each jurisdiction typically has rules for retention of client files.
Whether already enjoying a lightweight practice as a solo practitioner or younger or newer lawyer, for example, or seeking to transition to a paperless (or less paper) system, many tools are available to lawyers to increase effective organization and efficiency. Remember that the best thing about spring cleaning is how you feel once it is done.